Turkey supplier says Brexit '100%' to blame for Christmas shortage fears

26 September 2021, 13:21

There are fears around supplies of Christmas turkeys due to a labour shortage blamed on Brexit.
There are fears around supplies of Christmas turkeys due to a labour shortage blamed on Brexit. Picture: Alamy

By Elizabeth Haigh

The UK could face a shortage of turkeys in the run up to Christmas as a specialist supplier blamed the crisis "100%" on Brexit.

Kate Martin, chairwoman of the Traditional Farm Fresh Turkey Association, said the shortages come from "a lack of labour."

She added: "This situation with turkeys is caused by the fact that European labour is no longer available to us, and they are skilled workers who have been coming to us for years.

"People are now missing a whole host of their workforce that they have been training and investing in over the last however many years, and those workers are no longer available for us to use on a seasonal basis - they will go find work on mainland Europe instead.

"We're an innovative industry and we will get through it but there are less turkeys to be had."

Read more: Army of 10,000 foreign workers asked to save Christmas from shortages crisis

Mrs Martin said supermarkets are likely to see emptier shelves this Christmas, and advised customers to order earlier than usual if ordering directly from a farm.

"I think everyone needs to get their orders in very quickly.

"We have seen an absolutely unprecedented number of orders come in."

Her comments come as the government revealed plans to grant 5,000 HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers with temporary visas to work in the UK.

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But the plan has faced backlash after it was revealed the visas will run out on Christmas Eve.

The British Chamber of Commerce president Baroness McGregor-Smith said the plan amounted to "throwing a thimble of water on a bonfire", and it would "not be enough to address the scale of the problem".

The UK has seen huge queues and high tensions at petrol stations over the last few days, while government ministers have rushed to reassure the public that there are no fuel shortages.

However, a HGV driver shortage of around 90,000 drivers means that supplies of fuel and fresh produce are moving around the UK more slowly.

Read more: Drivers pack cars with jerry cans and £30 cap introduced as panic-buyers scramble for fuel

The Government has pledged to improve HGV licence testing and ensure thousands more take place over the next 12 weeks.

"Skills bootcamps" are being given £10 million in funding to train up to 3,000 more drivers.

Meanwhile local courses could train another 1,000 - but this is still fewer than the number of visas being granted for HGV drivers from abroad, and well below the estimated 90,000 required.